by Amish Patel - January 27, 2012
John Canton: I’ve always loved the Royal Rumble pay per view. I showed that love last year when I recapped every Royal Rumble match. The concept of the match is wonderful. Even if you think you know what might happen, there’s always a very good chance that something crazy will happen. I didn’t think Cena would win in 2008 or Edge in 2010 because they both made surprise returns. Could there be a surprise winner this year? You never know. The sad thing about the Rumble is that the winner doesn’t really get to “main event” WrestleMania anymore (especially this year), but it’s still one of my favorite matches and I know I’m going to enjoy it like I do every year. Right now there are only four announced matches. I’d expect some kind of midcard match to be added as a buffer to some of the big ones on the card, but I’m not going to guess what they will be.
Christian Michael: It’s that time of year again when we hop on the Road to WrestleMania and this Sunday the first stop will be the Royal Rumble. I love the fact that the Rumble takes place on the week between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl. It gives me something to watch on the first Sunday since August with no football. The Royal Rumble is my second favorite event of the year and usually even my non-wrestling fan friends like to watch it. Let’s see what this year’s event has in store for us.
Andrew Johnson: First off, I want to welcome everyone and thank them for taking the time to read this entire preview. I also want to thank John and Christian for their time. But, I want to especially thank Christian for stepping down from the weekly Smackdown review, because now that I’ve taken over people are finally starting to like me. It only took about three years, but whatever.
John Canton: Before we start, just a quick explanation about the preview team. To end last year we had the entire TJR writing staff writing these previews, but it got to be too much. We’ll still be doing columns with the entire staff, such as January’s staff predictions for 2012 and more to come, but for the previews it’s a three man team. After me, the two most senior writers at TJR are Andrew Johnson and Christian Michael, both of whom have covered Smackdown for the site, so they are joining me for the previews. Let’s roll.
World Title Steel Cage Match: Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. Mark Henry
Christian Michael: I think we were all expecting this match to take place but not in the confines of a Steel Cage. I think it’s a curious move on WWE’s part to have the match in a cage but one that would lead you to believe that Bryan is retaining the Championship. Bryan has been doing great since he won the gold and begun his heel turn. The match will not be a technical masterpiece because of the two big men but should have enough drama and brutality to keep it entertaining. I think the cage was put in place to give Bryan a “cheap” victory. A victory where he can escape the cage while Henry and Show are knocked out or fighting each other. I hope that after this match Bryan can feud with someone that can match his work rate.
Predicted Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion – Daniel Bryan
Andrew Johnson: Watching this feud unfold weekly has been nothing short of a treat. I tend to go on about these guys in my weekly Smacking Of WWE Smackdown report, and for good reason. This three-way feud has been fantastic. Sure we might have had to suffer through Big Show’s blubbering moon face, but we’ve also gotten week after week of exciting main events without a real finish. Bryan defended his title three weeks in a row, successfully I might add, and never really won a match. That’s insane. And while most people might say “Oh, they’re booking him bad, they’re making him look like a weak champion,” guess what, no they’re not. He’s had matches with guys who are generally his own size since being champion and he’s housed all of them. He’s not a weak champion, he’s just a small guy that has to contend with f**king giants. How else is he supposed to get the win? A tickle contests?
The problem isn’t that he’s being booked weak (because he isn’t) it’s that fan expectation is so conditional upon what they’ve seen before. For the past decade we’ve gotten used to seeing a guy like John Cena rise above hate and other obstacles in his path. Cena has taken on several opponents when the odds are supposedly stacked against him (Khali, Big Show, Edge on Big Show’s back, 30 goddamn members of Nexus at once) and he has always come out on top. Shawn Michaels defeating Vader at SummerSlam, Hogan slamming Andre, Rey Mysterio beating literally anyone; we are used to the champions overcoming the odds and winning no matter what. So when we see a small guy going against a bigger opponent, our reaction is usually “Cena wins, yawn” instead of “Holy shit he’s going to die” like it should be.
In reality Bryan is doing what everyone should be doing when they’re up against tanks; trying to win the match by any means necessary. This doesn’t really make him a Lex Luthor type evil villain rubbing his hands together and making a suit out of kryptonite. He’s actually more like Darth Vader; a guy who believes so hard that he’s doing the right thing that he’s willing to orchestrate devious acts and personally sacrifice the one thing that he truly appreciates just to get the job done.
In fact, nobody in this match is inherently evil, at least in the Vince McMahon beating up his own daughter way. They all have a legitimate reason for their actions. Big Show is mad because he was shamed by a guy literally ¼ his size, and his title reign was a joke. Mark Henry is pissed because he’s big and strong and wearing angry black man boots, he’s been taken off the top of the mountain faster then he thought, and now someone else has the prize he’s spent the better part of 10 years chasing. Daniel Bryan genuinely believes he’s the best wrestler of the bunch and he’s willing to go to any lengths to keep the one thing that validates that belief. It’s not good versus evil versus kind good but acting evil. It’s just good story telling. They’re human beings with axes to grind, just like all of us. It’s the kind of story telling we should be expecting instead of the easy overcoming the odds bullshit we’ve seen a million times. So the addition of a steel cage with two big warthogs trying to keep the other from winning while the little guy is trying to sneak out of the cage for another win isn’t played, it makes sense. I’m looking forward to this.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
John Canton: I really hope this isn’t the opening match of the card, but what else would there be? The other three are bigger matches. I guess it depends on if they add new matches, which I suspect. There’s no reason why Big Show or Mark Henry should win here. Daniel Bryan is arguably the best character in all of WWE right now. Scratch that, he IS the best character in WWE right now. They are “giving him the ball” so to speak and he’s taking it to the house in a big way. I love what they’re doing with him. He’s that flukey kind of heel champion that WWE loves to book, but he’s also got the ability to end anybody with a submission hold. The big guys are there to take eachother out, which will allow Bryan to escape with the title one more time. It’s the obvious finish. Guess what, though? It’s the right finish. Don’t be silly, WWE. Do the right thing. Daniel Bryan retains.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
John Cena vs. Kane
Christian Michael: Raise your hand if you want Cena to turn heel. Ok, put your hand down because this feud is the beginning of it in my opinion. Kane’s whole “embrace the hate” motto will lead Cena to do just that. I think he’ll finally snap and go heel especially since we all know he’s going to be booed out of the building at WrestleMania. The build up to this match has been interesting. Kane’s done a lot of damage to Cena’s buddy Zack Ryder causing Cena to go ballistic and show a real mean streak. I like angry Cena much more than corny Cena. The match should be a pretty good brawl. I don’t think there will be a clean finish because Cena will still need something to do at the next PPV unless they intend to have The Rock appear and screw Cena out of the WWE Championship in an Elimination Chamber Match but that’s not logical. I think Cena goes off the deep end and gets himself disqualified.
Predicted Winner- Kane
Andrew Johnson: In the midst of sounding like a typical Internet Wrestling Fan stereotype equipped with a MITB CM Punk t-shirt I bought for $300 because the guy on Ebay said it was one of the ones sold at the show and that’s SO TOTALLY WORTH IT, I’m not looking forward to this match. But, unlike the typical Internet Wrestling Fan equipped with a YouTube account he uses to post “CENA SUCKS” videos with about a full bag of Cheeto crumbs smeared on the CM Punk shirt he was told was sold at the MITB show but really wasn’t, it has nothing to do with the wrestling. It also has nothing to do with the fact that Kane is trying to get Cena to EMBRACE THE HATE IN ALL CAPS while Cena makes angry diarrhea poopy emoticon faces. I’m just past this whole idea of having to change John Cena, and all this storyline has been since day one is “Yeah we know you want Cena to be heel, but he’s not going to be so shut up.” It’s just this declaration by WWE that they are aware of the fact that people hate the poor guy, even when he’s doing his best to make everyone like him. But, the thing is that the fans aren’t really booing John Cena. They’re actually booing the WWE.
Take that promo where Kane’s whole point weighed on the fact that people chant CENA SUCKS every chance they get. It shouldn’t have taken much. The WWE fans have been booing Cena so long it’s conceivable that he’s already dealing with severe emotional problems. Rising above hate is a good thing, but he’s been rising above it for almost a decade. That kind of thing takes its toll. So the one time the WWE needs the fans to boo him so they can move the story foreword, what happened? The crowd flip-flopped. They couldn’t decide on whether they should go along with what Kane was suggesting or if they should tell WWE they could stick their meta storytelling in their ear. It’s teenage rebellion. So they had to stop relying on the fans to build the story and they shifted the focus to Zack Ryder being murdered by the Firestarter and John Cena (maybe) embracing something that closely resembles hate. What I’m saying is that this story that had a basic and goofy yet excusable premise has spiraled out of control into I Know What You Did Last Summer level insanity, and we have no one to blame but ourselves because we f**ked up the only time they asked us to be a part of something. Way to go, everyone.
(On a side note, I can even look past the ridiculousness of it all because honestly I don’t want pro-wrestling to be like real life. This whole “Reality Era” that people on the Internet tried to make a thing was over way before it started, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t need wrestlers calling each other by there real names and making Colt Cabana references. I don’t know how many of you live in reality, but it sucks. I don’t watch WWE so that I can get another dose of how shitty the real world is. If pro-wrestling wants me to believe Kane summon fire, fine, I’ll buy that Kane summon fire. But, why couldn’t he have just done that to Ryder in the first place instead of watching him change a tire for an hour? He wears a ton of product in his hair, he would have gone up like a roman candle dipped in gasoline.)
So where do we go from here? Either Cena embraces the hate, starts wearing green and becomes an unstable lunatic, or he doesn’t embrace it and continues being an emotionally repressed yuck machine that will eventually snap one day when someone accidentally spills a soda on him. The Rock is three months away, is Kane just trying to get him ready? Is he a demonic version of Mickey from Rocky? I don’t know, and frankly I’ve stopped caring at this point. I don’t need all this Zack Ryder subplot and attempts at exercising the anger out of John Cena. They tried, and I’m just not buying it. At this point I just want to see a five-knuckle-shuffle and some ring posts explode.
Winner, by embracing hate: John Cena
John Canton: Anything other than a Cena win here is stupid. I think it’s safe to say that nearly every person watching this PPV is going to be watching WrestleMania as well. The Cena/Rock match at WrestleMania 28 is one of the biggest matches in the history of WWE with as much buildup as any match I can ever remember. Over one year of build. It’s unprecedented. The reason for the feud with Kane is to make Cena look tougher. You can’t do that by having the guy lose. I’m surprised there isn’t a No DQ stipulation or something to allow them to brawl because that’s what this should be. A straight up wrestling match between two guys like this won’t be pretty. The only reason for Kane to win is if there’s a rematch at February’s Elimination Chamber, but even if there is I’d have Cena win this match. He’s the main event of WrestleMania 28. He shouldn’t be losing to anybody before that night. Yes, imagine that. I want Cena to be booked like a Superman. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. And no, I don’t foresee Cena turning heel. This story is being done to make him more aggressive and give him more toughness instead of the comedy routine he does once in a while. I like it. Why? Because once again it’s the right thing to do.
Winner: John Cena
WWE Title: CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler w/Vickie Guerrero (Special Referee is John Laurinaitis)
Christian Michael: What WWE is trying to do here is recreate Austin vs. McMahon but it isn’t going to happen. As great as Punk is he isn’t Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon is infinitely better than Laurinaitis. I will give Laurinaitis his due as he has gotten better in recent weeks, that emotionless expression while taking the GTS notwithstanding. Laurinaitis’ involvement will ruin what could have been a classic match between Punk and Ziggler. Ziggler is just there so Punk can have someone to wrestle. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a real Championship feud. Laurinaitis will try his hardest to screw Punk but it’ll probably backfire and Punk will walk out with the gold.
Predicted Winner and STILL WWE Champion- CM Punk
Andrew Johnson: Watching CM Punk for the past few months has been kind of frustrating. Not because he’s not a great wrestler, because he is. I just don’t know where this guy came from. He’s not the anarchist that ran down the entire structure of the WWE while wearing a Stone Cold t-shirt. He’s not the guy that united a whole (WWE) universe behind him as he challenged the establishment. He’s not dropping pipe bombs. He’s just… not CM Punk. I really don’t know any other way to put it. He’s gone from breaking kayfabe to being buddies with all the other good guys while systematically calling everyone he doesn’t like gay.
There’s a weird dynamic with the WWE fans that I’ve noticed. The majority of them don’t want to cheer for a guy who works hard and gives back to the community and stands up for what he believes in because caring about people and what they think is lame. But, you have a guy like Punk who runs his mouth, bitches and moans, and constantly makes self-serving decisions that benefit no one but himself, and everyone cheers and loves him. How does that make sense? John Laurinaitis might be incompetent boob, but he’s at least well meaning. He’s also the boss, and if I were in his position I’d absolutely be pissed at the guy that’s constantly trying to undermine my authority. It doesn’t matter that he has poor judgment, he’s the boss and if he fails he doesn’t need some trashy subordinate running him down. CM Punk might be “fighting authority” but the truth is he’s completely out of line. If he inspires you to stand up to your incompetent boss, you’re not going to get a match with them to try and settle the score. You’re going to get f**king fired. So you know, good luck with that.
So I’m over Punk, but I’m way into Ziggler right now. His #showoff gimmick is cool as hell, and I’ll never get bored watching him do crunches before dropping elbows on people. Next he should do jumping jacks before a drop kick or fill out his federal taxes between moves. Ziggler is my favorite WWE Superstar not named Cody Rhodes, and I want to see him become the biggest star in the world, but not right now. This isn’t his feud. It’s CM Punk vs. Big Johnny, and Ziggler is Stephanie McMahon’s dog. Or he’s Jericho, and Vickie’s the dog. Whatever.
Winner: CM Punk
John Canton: I strongly believe that CM Punk will win the match here. They’ve done a lot to put Ziggler on his level by having him beat Punk four times with screwy finishes on television, which is a strong sign that Punk will get his win here. The wrinkle that’s been thrown in is that interim Raw GM John Laurinaitis is the guest referee. We also know that on Monday his status as GM will be evaluated by COO Triple H, so the ability to blatantly cheat to help Ziggler is thrown out the window. Or is it? The two scenarios out there are that Laurinaitis will cost Punk the match which would also potentially cost himself his job or call it down the middle and possibly keep his job. What will be? I’m leaning towards the “call it down the middle” idea. Laurinaitis’ best strength in the GM is playing the guy that changes his mind a lot. You never really know what he’s thinking about. They’ve done a good job of setting it up that people are picking one option or the other for the most part.
As for the match, I really wish this was a straight up wrestling match. One of my favorite matches in WWE history happened at the 2003 Royal Rumble as Kurt Angle defended the WWE Title against Chris Benoit. It was a match that featured two of the best workers ever. They had built up a good rivalry and they had a classic. Angle, the champion, retained the title. Both guys were better for having the match, though, because of how great it was. I think Punk and Ziggler have talent close to that. However, due to the storyline hanging above the match with Laurinaitis in the picture it has made Ziggler look like an afterthought, as I’ve said weekly in the Raw Deal and Andrew mentioned up above. Here’s to hoping they get 15-20 minutes of great wrestling in there before the finish, which I’m assuming leads to a CM Punk victory as previously mentioned. I just want to see two of the best show why they are at the level they are at. Give them a chance to shine and they will.
Winner: CM Punk
30 Man Royal Rumble Match
Christian Michael: I’m so glad that they returned this match to 30 Superstars. 40 was just too much. This is my favorite match of the year even though it doesn’t mean what it used to. WWE can proclaim all they want that the Rumble winner goes to the Main Event of WrestleMania, but that’s not true. WrestleManias 22, 23, 24, 26 and 27 all saw the Royal Rumble winner NOT in the Main Event. It was even worse last year when Alberto Del Rio and Edge battled in the opening match. This year’s winner won’t be in the Main Event either as we all know that The Rock and Cena’s match is the Main Event. The Royal Rumble Match just doesn’t mean what it used to because of that and because next month someone will win a chance to get a Championship Match at WrestleMania in an Elimination Chamber Match. Still, I get very excited for this match.
So, who’s going to win? As much as I’d like to see a first timer like Ziggler (I think he’ll find his way into this match just like he did last year after having a World Heavyweight Championship Match) or Cody Rhodes win it, I think two former World Champions are the favorites: Randy Orton and Chris Jericho. The Rumble will be in Orton’s hometown and will portray the returning hero after being out with an injury. Jericho said the world as we know it will end at the Rumble. Making a bold statement like that means he plans on doing something big and winning the Rumble would be big. WWE has been rumored to want to do Punk vs. Jericho at WrestleMania and this would be the easiest way to get there. Orton has already won a Rumble while Jericho has not and that’s why I lean towards Jericho. I’m sure there will be a few surprises along the way and Mick Foley’s involvement in the match should be fun.
Most Eliminations – Brodus Clay
Person That Lasts the Longest – The Miz
Final Four – Chris Jericho, Brodus Clay, Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes
Winner – Chris Jericho
The Royal Rumble always makes for a fun night. So sit back, enjoy and Let’s Go G-MEN!!!!
Andrew Johnson: This is the one match John said “go a few paragraphs on” but I honestly can’t think of much to say. I’m not the fantasy booking type (because it’s dumb) so I’m not going to try and come up with a moment for moment plan of the Rumble, but there are a few things I’d like to see happen:
- Cody Rhodes needs to look like a beast. I’m not saying he needs to win, or he needs to get the most eliminations, but I want to see him drop a few guys not named Tyler Reks. He needs to toss big names, like Orton or Sheamus. Cody Rhodes is awesome and I want to see him do well so maybe this is wishful thinking, but I just don’t want to get to a point where he’s near the cusp of being one of the main guys and then I blink my eyes and he’s suddenly Ken Kennedy. Just kidding, he’ll never be Ken Kennedy. Cody has talent.
- If there’s no Funkasaurus, I riot (in my living room, because duh).
- I want Mick Foley to matter. I’m not saying he needs to be in there long, or he needs to get like 10 eliminations, I just want it to be a moment that leads to a future moment. I love Mick, and I want to see him on my TV as much as possible. Even if he’s on 30 Rock having to share screen time with Charlie Bit My Finger, I’m comforted knowing that he’s there. A lead up to something at WrestleMania would be awesome, because that assures many Foley moments for weeks to come. And that’s good. Really good.
Other than that there’s no rhyme or reason to my picks. Just gut instinct really. Let’s not over analyze it.
Most eliminations: Sheamus
Person that lasts the longest in the match: Cody Rhodes
Final four: Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho
Winner: Chris Jericho
John Canton: It’s hard to write this like a regular match because it’s a match that will get close to an hour of time with 90 second intervals for each participant (assuming they stick with that) and 30 different superstars in the match. There’s no listing of who is in the match although some of the favorites that are in it have spoke about it in promos. All we know is that “everybody” is eligible to be in it, even guys who wrestled earlier in the night and possibly the WWE & World Champions as well. There are so many ways that this could go down, so I’ll have to break up my ideas the best way I can. I’m going to do something similar to Andrew with some bullet point predictions.
- Chris Jericho hasn’t had a real match since returning. I know that fantasy bookers are thinking he could be number 30, have a few guys eliminate eachother and then he walks into the ring as the winner of the match. I think that would be a crappy ending. If he’s going to be in a top match at WrestleMania they need to showcase him here. I think he’ll be one of the first five competitors and last all the way until the very end in a similar way to Ric Flair’s performance twenty years ago. Will he win? That’s to come.
- Hornswoggle will be in the match. I won’t find it funny. Vince McMahon will.
- I think Cody Rhodes will be eliminated by his brother Goldust, who will be a surprise in the sense that he’s not a regular on camera performer these days. There’s a very strong rumor that they will wrestle at the Elimination Chamber PPV similar to Cody’s feud with Booker T. It won’t be at WrestleMania because they’re doing a Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania with Cody as a favorite to win that.
- A lot of people ask me for surprise entrants. I don’t feel like guessing. I didn’t get the sense that Booker or Nash were showing up last year. That surprised me. I want to be surprised again. I guess the Road Dogg could be one because he works backstage in WWE now, but is that a big enough name for people?
- I’d assume Undertaker returns after the Royal Rumble. Only reason to put him in the match is if Triple H (his possible WrestleMania opponent) is in the match and he eliminates Undertaker to set up their next match in Miami. If they were both in they should have been advertised.
- I don’t believe The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Steve Austin, Batista or any other potential huge name is going to be in the match. Austin’s not wrestling. If Rock was going to be there, they should have advertised it. Lesnar is more of an outside shot, but I think if he returns to WWE it will be later in the year.
- I assume that Christian will return here. As far as I know he should be recovered from his ankle injury. He might have been recovered a few weeks back, but it’s likely they wanted to save him for this. It will be great to see him back in action assuming he’s a part of this match.
- There will be a spot in the match where Brodus Clay does his Funkasaurus dance similar to Rikishi in the 2000 Rumble. How about a surprise appearance by Rikishi for a dance off? Could be funny.
- From the earlier matches on the card, I think Kane and Ziggler are locks to be in the match. I doubt CM Punk, Big Show or Mark Henry would be in it. John Cena is a possibility although there’s no point unless he’s there to go after Kane because their match doesn’t end in a clean manner. It would be funny if Daniel Bryan, the reigning World Champion, was it on the basis of him wanting to win just to prove he’s the best. It would add to his growing ego as the heel champ.
- I’m a little upset that I can’t make my “Mark Henry is a threat to win” jokes this year. They didn’t really put over any midcarder via battle royal wins or dominant performances on Raw or Smackdown. Perhaps Mason Ryan could have filled that role as somebody I could joke about winning that really has no chance, but the booking was lazy this year. You ruined my fun, McMahon.
- Randy Orton will enter in the final third of the match. He’s coming off back injury that sidelined him for a month. It would be wise to protect him. I’d expect him to be the one to eliminate Wade Barrett. If Daniel Bryan is in the match for some reason, they should have Orton eliminate him too.
- My pick for number 30 is Mick Foley. I think he’ll eliminate Dolph Ziggler, who I think will enter the match in the final third and both of them will be in the final four. I have a feeling that will be a WrestleMania match based off their promo on Raw a couple of weeks ago. Foley will eliminate Ziggler, leaving people to think that maybe the returning veteran will win. I don’t think so. Chris Jericho will toss him out, leaving us with two.
- I think Randy Orton will win the Royal Rumble. It’s obvious that the two clear favorites are Randy Orton and Chris Jericho. I’m hoping that at WrestleMania the WWE Title match is Punk vs. Jericho and World Title match is Bryan vs. Orton, so does it really matter who wins? Not really. I think each guy is going to get that title shot no matter what happens. I’m going with Orton for three reasons:
1) When he lost the title to Mark Henry in the fall I believe it was done with the idea that he’d get the title back at WrestleMania. That’s how WWE books these things. It doesn’t matter that he won in 2009. They’re focused on this WrestleMania.
2) Last year a heel won. Traditionally babyfaces win. Throw in the fact that it’s in Randy’s hometown of St. Louis and I think the show will end with a triumphant Orton celebrating with the crowd. A babyface ending is a nice way to end your second biggest show (in terms of viewers it is) of the year.
3) By booking it this way, Orton gets the win while Jericho shows that he dominated the match, claiming that he is still the best in the world. There’s plenty of time for him to become the number one contender to face CM Punk. The guy that wins the Rumble always gets put over huge. That doesn’t mean he has to be the biggest star of the match. That honor can go to Chris Jericho.
Most eliminations: Chris Jericho (My second choice would be Sheamus)
Person that lasts the longest: Chris Jericho
Final four: Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho
Winner: Randy Orton
Can you tell I love the Royal Rumble? It would be so much fun to book this match. Here’s hoping it’s a memorable one once again. It’s actually the same poll I put in Canton’s Corner two weeks ago. Jericho won with 60% of the vote after over 3,000 votes. Now that the Rumble is actually here, who will the winner be?
I won’t be doing a Canton’s Corner column this weekend. When there’s a WWE PPV that means no Canton’s Corner. I’ll be back live on Sunday night to write about the Royal Rumble at thejohnreport.net so join me for that or read about it after you watch the show. Any questions or comments? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the Royal Rumble!
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